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Perceptions of morality differ not only between different cultures, but also within an individual's development.

A simple story about a thief stealing candy helps capture a child's moral thoughts. After all, at its core, this story is about how a child feels when he or she transgresses moral norms to satisfy his or her own needs.

Younger children assume that the thief will feel good when he steals because he can then satisfy his own needs. Although there is already a well-organized knowledge of moral norms.

The happy criminal!

As children get older, they then attribute more and more negative feelings to the thief.

The derivation of this observation is simple. Thus, moral knowledge is developed first, and only later is the motivation to act morally developed. Thus, as children grow older, the discrepancy between knowledge and motivation decreases.

However, this division is not so simple in China, for example. Indeed, in collectivist cultures, moral knowledge often goes hand in hand with motivation to act morally. Important factors for moral action are respect for the law, empathy and fear of punishment. So are Chinese people especially empathetic?

If we take a closer look at moral development, we can' t avoid Kohlberg. He defined six stages according to which moral development proceeds. In the beginning, people are oriented toward possible punishments and then toward a general cost-benefit principle. Finally, one orients oneself to the moral expectations of close persons, to the social order, and to the social contract and individual rights.

Interestingly, few individuals reach the final stage of moral development where one is oriented to universal ethical principles.

So think about whether you might still manage to reach the last stage.

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